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Zimbabwe face stiff test against in-form Afghanistan

18/02/2017 00:00:00
by Cricbuzz.com
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HARARE: Afghanistan are on a roll, having won all of their last nine games. They will look to extend their superb run as they attempt to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match One Day International (ODI) series against Zimbabwe when they face off against the hosts on Sunday (February 19) in Harare.

A couple of days ago in the first One Day International (ODI), they escaped unscathed, thanks to Ryan Burl's wicket one ball before rain stopped play, which titled the DLS method in their favour.

On a difficult to surface to bat on, skipper Asghar Stanikzai showed the way with a sensible fifty - he started aggressively but toned down considerably knowing that he needed to bat long - and also made the right moves - introduced spin very early to get two early wickets, which put pressure on Zimbabwe.

His top-order has been in decent touch of late. The explosive Mohammad Shahzad can take the opposition by storm on his day, while 23-year-old Rahmat Shah is fresh from a fifty, and also a hundred in in a local tournament back in Afghanistan. Stanikzai himself got back among the runs in the first ODI and there is a lot of batting depth with Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran coming in at No. 6 and 7 respectively.

Amir Hamza has been very reliable with the ball and his excellent discipline makes him the captain's go-to man when he needs a breakthrough. Rashid Khan, whose big-hitting towards the end in the first ODI gave Afghanistan the crucial extra runs, has been in great touch, having taken 14 wickets in his last 7 games. The pace department is well complemented by Dawlat Zadran and Gulbadin Naib.

On the other hand, Zimbabwe have not had the best of times recently, managing to win just two games out of their last 12 limited-overs internationals. It was a case of so-near-yet-so-far for the hosts even on Thursday as they were actually ahead on DLS method by 1 run before Burl fell.

Zimbabwe's main problem has been the lack of solid partnerships up front. In fact, 38 is their best opening stand in the last 9 ODIs. Hamilton Masakadza failing a fitness Test and not making the cut makes things worse, for he has the experience and the game to provide starts.

Returning to the side after almost two years, Solomon Mire is under a bit of pressure to justify his place in the team. The hosts can bank upon the experience from Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza, but Burl's promising form makes him one to watch out for. The 19-year-old Richard Ngavara was impressive with his left-arm pace on debut, while the pace battalion is well equipped with Chris Mpofu and Tendai Chatara. Cremer's all-round form gives the side a lot of balance too.


When: February 19, 09:30 AM Local time

Where: Harare Sports Club (HSC), Harare

What to expect: The pitch at the HSC tends to assist the bowlers with the early morning moisture and with rain forecast for the day, captains could be tempted to bowl first. Generally, the HSC has not been a high-scoring ground as the slower bowlers get some purchase as the game progresses because of the slowness of the surface.


Zimbabwe (From): Ryan Burl, Tarisai Musakanda, Craig Ervine, Peter Moor(w), Sikandar Raza, Malcolm Waller, Graeme Cremer(c), Solomon Mire, Richard Ngarava, Chris Mpofu, Tendai Chatara, Nathan Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Wellington Masakadza, Donald Tiripano, Carl Mumba

Afghanistan (From): Mohammad Shahzad(w), Asghar Stanikzai(c), Noor Ali Zadran, Rahmat Shah, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Amir Hamza, Rashid Khan, Gulbadin Naib, Dawlat Zadran, Ihsanullah Janat, Samiullah Shenwari, Karim Janat, Fareed Ahmad, Aftab Alam

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